It is inevitable. I receive a press release from Honeywell Process. This one regards the Experion PKS R530 process knowledge system. Upon reading, I think, oh, well, some incremental improvements. Then I talk with my main product interface, Joe Bastone. After digesting the output of his firehose, I see how advanced Honeywell the technology has become. 

Honeywell announced February 5, 2024 it is driving new automation capabilities into Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS), with Release R530. The technology update integrates new features that strengthen existing control room installations through both firmware and software upgrades and supports Honeywell’s alignment of its portfolio to three compelling megatrends: automation, the future of aviation and energy transition.

Evidently Honeywell corporate has identified three parts of a vision and is placing the updates to Experion into the automation bucket. That’s OK, but I think it does a disservice to the platform if one defines automation too narrowly or traditionally.

The Experion PKS Highly Integrated Virtual Environment (HIVE) forms the foundation that R530 builds upon.

The Experion PKS R530 update introduces Experion Remote Gateway, which further enables remote operations by providing a browser-independent method to simplify monitoring and operations. Additionally, the updated Ethernet Interface Module allows for Experion PKS HIVE integration of smart protocols while optimizing the processing load of the C300 controller. These features ensure the best possible security, reliability and performance for customers.

The press release slipped in a sentence about the updated Ethernet Interface Module. I had about 30 minutes with Bastone. He picked two key features to discuss. This was one. I cannot do justice to his entire discussion. Go to the tech pages. This module eliminates a need for controller peer-to-peer communications. “It changes how communications are done.” It allows non-Honeywell I/O to communicate into the I/O HIVE. It simplifies installation and eliminates junction boxes. Check that one out.

Experion PKS offers industry-leading flexibility in automation system design, engineering, deployment, and ongoing maintenance. Using Experion PKS Control HIVE can reduce controller count by up to 50% and system cabinet count by up to 80%, compared to traditional automation solutions. Experion PKS Control HIVE also minimizes manual interventions to ensure smoother and safer operations, reducing the risk of unplanned downtime which can impact users’ bottom line.

Back to Bastone. Imagine you have a plant. There are five areas with their own controllers. It’s all so logical and clean when new. But you have to add something at the edge of one of the areas. You go looking for the closest junction box. That may connect to a different controller. The way Control HIVE works, that can be OK. But go several years and several projects down the road. Now you may have a complex mess. But the HIVE decouples controllers and applications. The C300 can run two apps at the same time. Now if you are in a primary/backup architecture and a primary goes out, you have the backup. But the backup has no backup. So, Control HIVE can look for a partner and find a new backup. This decoupling has, in effect, added resiliency to the overall system while reducing the total number of controllers needed.

What has amazed me is that Honeywell has developed almost everything that the original designers of OPAF envisioned—except for total interoperability. They were looking for totally generic hardware so that any supplier’s products could be seamlessly inserted on upgrades. That’ll probably never happen. But Honeywell’s decoupling and HIVE technology provides a lot of upgrade capability and modernizes the architecture.

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